Long Bright River by Liz Moore

In choosing fiction, my preference is for narratives driven by emotion rather than action – I want to be in a character’s head and to know what they are feeling, as opposed to being a bystander, ‘watching’ what happens to them.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore is very much an action-driven story. It tells of two sisters, Mickey and Kacey, whose lives begin in the same troubled home but then take very different paths . Kacey lives on the streets of Kensington, Philadelphia, addicted to heroin, and doing what she has to do to feed her habit. Mickey also knows the streets of Kensington but that’s because she joined the police force. Although the sisters are estranged, Mickey keeps an eye out for Kacey. When a string of unsolved murders occur – the victims all young women with drug habits – Mickey fears for her sister. Continue reading

Carol by Patricia Highsmith

Believe it or not, Carol is my first Patricia Highsmith. In the past, I’ve dismissed her work as ‘not my thing’ (on account of me being coverist* – you know those crime novels with darkly coloured covers and the author’s name in blocky gold-foil font, often found lying about at beach houses? That.) Anyway, I changed my mind a few years ago when I saw the fantastic play, Switzerland – Highsmith is the subject and the play included bizarre biographical details (things like carrying snails around in handbags). I was intrigued. Continue reading

Sample Saturday – ‘Summer’ reads (even though it’s Spring here)

Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye. This week, all three picks are from Sarah’s Book Shelves Summer Reading Guide. Continue reading

The Party by Elizabeth Day

The individual elements of Elizabeth Day’s suspense novel, The Party, are promising – campus-lit, British society, and a very fancy party where an ‘incident’ occurs that threatens reputations and relationships. Unfortunately the story was a bit of a fizzer.

At the centre is Martin Gilmour, who wins a scholarship to the prestigious Burtonbury School. Usually the outsider, Martin meets the charismatic and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice and via him, gains access to society’s elite. The boys develop a close relationship although it’s one that’s lopsided – Martin has deep feelings for Ben, which are further complicated by a secret he has promised to keep.

By the time I got to Cambridge, my reinvention as Ben Fitzmaurice’s surrogate brother was so convincing to me, I’d almost forgotten I had a different past – one that involved gas fires and sausages in tins… Continue reading

Viral by Helen FitzGerald

When I threw my hat in the ring to win a copy of Viral by Helen FitzGerald, I was under the impression that it was YA novel. Or rather, ’emerging adult’ (or whatever the genre is for books aimed at late teens that include sex-drugs-language lite).

I won (yay!).

The book arrived. I read the first line –

“I sucked twelve cocks in Magaluf. So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety-six people have seen me do this.”

…and knew immediately that this was not a ‘cautionary tale’ for emerging adults. Continue reading

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Anyone who’s picked up Ottessa Moshfegh’s Eileen because they’ve heard that it’s ‘the next Gone Girl‘ should chill. It’s not Gone Girl. In fact, it’s nothing like Gone Girl. I imagine that the reference was made because both books have a female character that is not very nice. The similarities end there.

Eileen is a character study, written in the first person. The reader is quickly exposed to Eileen’s dark, repulsive and disconcerting thoughts.

Although very little happens for the first three-quarters of the book, Moshfegh manages to create exquisite tension – you know that Eileen will become unhinged and she doesn’t disappoint. When glamorous Rebecca Saint John arrives at Eileen’s workplace (Eileen is a secretary at a juvenile correctional facility for boys), Eileen is infatuated and unable to resist anything Rebecca asks of her.

Moshfegh has created a remarkable character in Eileen. Her bitterness, resentment, and her self-obsessed monologue doesn’t waver for an instant. She’s judgmental, seething, and filthy, and I couldn’t tear my eyes from the page. Continue reading

‘A Common Loss’ by Kirsten Tranter

I’m not sure why A Common Loss by Kirsten Tranter ended up on the top of my reading stack. My book group read Tranter’s first book, The Legacy, and whilst they were enthusiastic about it, I was less so. I found The Legacy all a little too obvious, a bit strained, characters lacking true feeling. But in the spirit of giving authors a decent go, especially Australian authors, I picked up A Common Loss.

First off, I should mention that I read the book on my Kindle, some months after a I had actually downloaded it. When I started reading, I had forgotten what the story was about (you don’t have easy access to a jacket blurb on a Kindle – this can be a good or a bad thing!). It’s essentially the story of five college friends, who reunite every year in Las Vegas. However one year they are only four – charismatic Dylan, the mediator, the man each one turned to in a time of crisis is tragically killed. The four remaining friends, sharing their ‘common loss’, meet in Vegas and question who their friend Dylan really was.

I note not revisiting the story blurb before I started the book because I was at least a chapter or two in before I realised that the narrator is a male character, Elliot. Up until that point I assumed the narrator was a female (probably because of the opening scene where an account of moving a dead deer off a road is described with many observations about physical appearances and lack of strength). Whether the narrator is male or female doesn’t really matter but when I realised my error, I had flashbacks to The Legacy, with its unconvincing characters. Were we headed down the same path? Continue reading